Air Force lets First female F-16 Demo Pilot go

The US Air Force has let F-16 Viper pilot Capt. Kotnik, the first female F-16 demo pilot go. She was only commander for two week.

Here’s the official release

"Viper Demo Team friends and family, please see a message below from the 20th Fighter Wing commander.

I removed Capt. Kotnik from her position as the commander of the Viper Demo team yesterday, because I lost confidence in her ability to lead the team.

I know that loss of confidence is a common response from the Air Force, whenever someone is removed from a command position, and I think it’s important to understand why we take this approach.

We have thousands of Airmen across our Air Force serving our country, and not one of them is perfect. As good people, like Capt. Kotnik make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny, and to continue to be a part of this great service. They’ll be better for the experience, and in turn, we’ll be better as an Air Force.

In these types of situations, I never forget that we’re dealing with real human beings, that I care deeply about, and that we are charged to take care of. This will be a difficult time for Capt. Kotnik, but she’s surrounded by wingmen that will help her every step of the way.

It was exciting to have the first female demo team pilot here at Shaw, but I’m also just as excited about the many other females that are serving with great distinction across our Air Force. I’m proud to serve with them, and I’m inspired by them. Even as I speak, another female pilot from the 20th Fighter Wing is flying combat missions in the Middle East.

Maj. Waters, last season’s Viper Demo pilot has resumed command, so the team is in great hands, and the show will go on. We’re looking forward to another amazing season with this team.

Col. Derek O’Malley
Commander, 20th Fighter Wing"


Wow, that is sad to hear. I’ve enjoyed following her story. Wish it had a happier ending.

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I’m so confused. Didn’t she JUST get certified as the Viper Team Commander and Pilot on Jan 29th? Her IG page seems to have been removed too.

Edit: I see I missed that part in your first sentence; whoops. My follow up is why make her Commander and then remove her two weeks later?

Yes she spent two weeks in this slot.

I wouldn’t be surprised probably a huge disappointment to lose a slot position like this.

Loss of Confidence, something must of popped up.

That truly sucks. Hopefully she bounces back from it.

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To think on the bright side atleast she was, is, and always will be the first female F-16 Demo Pilot. It still is sad to lose such a rank as this.

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That’s so sad…


That’s true, first qualified F-16 Female demo pilot, her first show was suppose to be 30th and 31st of March.

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Wow that is a harsh way to announce such a decision! If that happened in the commercial world the pilot would have taken the Boss to a tribunal!

There is one thing for being removed from post due to loss of confidence and another for telling the whole world that’s the reason. Normally this sort of thing is handled in a much more discret way.

Eg “ it has been decided that Capt X will step down as CO of the unit for personal reasons and will be replaced by Maj Y with immediate effect. We wish Capt X every success for her future career”.


You just summed up the difference between a private life pilot vs a public life pilot/commander. Some one removed from a high position in a commander spot is not taken lightly and gets publicly known quickly.

Just remember the commander did not tell the world what the reason, “Loss of Confidence” can mean anything, everything from how she treated ground crew, to unsafe flying ect.

She didn’t step down for personal reasons, that would not be true since it isn’t.

Such a shame, got a hunch it may have all been a Pr stunt unfortunately.

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Can you explain this a little more?

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As I work within a service organisation here the UK and have been involved with similar cases all I can say as that these things are handled differently this side of the pond.

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Probably I have never worked with any British Armed Forces, the US is a different ball park specially with those in the public eyes, a small group leader being let go isn’t a big deal since they are not in the public eyes unless it’s serious, a commander of a demonstration team who is seen in the public eyes all the time is completely different. If the Air Force went quiet consparicies would begin, lying saying she left due to personal reasons could also give the Air Force a black eye if she comes out saying that’s not true, admitting the truth and saying that her actions have made the Air Force lose their trust in her leadership is a different story. It’s honest, doesn’t release details besides that she did something. Nothing wrong with that.

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